The dense forests in the Mljet National Park on the island of the same name off the southern coast of Croatia hide many a scenic and historical sight.
The western third of the picturesque island of Mljet off the southern coast of Croatia is occupied by the extremely scenic Mljet National Park. The island of Mljet was inhabited by the Illyrians even before Roman times and is often referred to as "Odysseus Island".
Together with the Greek island of Kefalonia and Malta, Mljet is suspected to be the biblical island of Melite, where the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked according to the Acts of the Apostles. In the eighth century, the first Croats settled on the island from the Neretva Delta on the mainland.
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PICTURES: Mljet National Park
What is the best way to get to the island of Mljet?
You can also travel to the island of Mljet by car. Ferries depart from the Pelješac peninsula to the island's beautiful forests, docking at the small port of Pomena on the western tip of the island. Dubrovnik or Split and the islands of Korcula or Hvar are also good starting points to reach the island of Mljet.
Tip: A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Dubrovnik and a day trip to the quiet forests of Mljet make an ideal holiday combination of culture and nature.
Flora and fauna of the Mljet National Park
Sand dunes and steep cliffs on the coasts, together with the forests, create a diverse ecosystem. Parts of the Adriatic Sea are also part of the Mljet National Park. Mediterranean monk seals, one of the most endangered mammal species in the world, have already been discovered there.
The Mljet National Park, which covers about 30 square kilometres, was founded on 11 November 1960 to protect the island's flora and fauna. With over 70% forest area, Mljet is one of the most heavily forested islands in the entire Mediterranean region, where even a piece of untouched Mediterranean primeval forest still thrives. Otherwise, holm oaks and pines form the majority of the vegetation.
Mongooses still live in the dense undergrowth, which, by the way, was even denser before the forest fire in 1917. This exotic mammal species was released on the island in 1909 to destroy poisonous snakes (which, by the way, succeeded). The remaining population, together with snake eagles, ensures that this remains the case. The deer, wild boar and hares that populate the national park were also settled on the island of Mljet by man.
Sights in Mljet National Park
The sights of the Mljet National Park are best explored on foot along the extensive network of hiking trails. A destination with unforgettable panoramic views promises a hike up Montokuc, from which the entire island, the Pelješac Channel and the Adriatic Sea can be seen.
Bathing, swimming and snorkelling in the Mljet National Park offer an unforgettable holiday experience both on the rocky coast and on the shores of the two lakes. The most beautiful beaches on Mljet are at Pomena, Polače and Suplenara.
There are also caves and grottos to discover in the untouched rocks, including the well-known Odysseus Cave. According to legend, the beautiful Calypso seduced the Greek hero and his crew to stay in this 20m-high grotto for years.
The path to the cave starts in Babino Polje and leads about 2km south. It is hidden in a bay and can be reached either on foot or by swimming. Ask locals about the "Odysejeva Spilja"!
Veliko and Malo Jezero (Big and Small Lake)
With 24 and 145 hectares, the two lakes are among the scenic highlights of the Mljet National Park. The road that connects Pomena with the rest of the island via Polače offers magnificent views of the two bodies of water, which are connected to the Adriatic Sea via a narrow drain. The view is particularly magnificent at sunset, when the sun slowly sinks into the sea behind the lakes.
On St. Mary's Island in Veliko Jezero, the Benedictine monastery is the most important architectural sight on the island of Mljet. The Romanesque monastery was founded in 1151 by the Prince of Zahumlje and was run by Benedictine monks until about 1800.
During this period, it developed into the cultural, religious and political centre of Mljet - also thanks to the islanders' servitude and taxes. In the 1960s it was briefly a hotel, but is now closed again.
Polače is also worth a visit. The small village developed from an old Roman palace that was once heavily fortified. The Christian basilica of the village is also worth seeing.